|High School Football:
Minutemen Hoping For A Happier Finish
Thursday, September 14, 2000
By Ed Benkin
When the Washington Township Minutemen concluded their 1999 season, there were plenty of accomplishments to look back on. The Minutemen returned to the playoffs after a two year absence, and remained in the hunt for the Olympic American Division title until the final week of the season. However, Washington Township was left with a feeling of unfinished business. A blocked extra point knocked the Minutemen out of the playoffs as they fell to Jackson, 10-9. One week later, the Minutemen were eight yards away from upsetting Eastern and capturing the Olympic American crown. But the Vikings kept Washington Township out of the end zone and took home the championship.
Washington Township is hoping for a happier ending in 2000. The Minutemen enter the season ranked third in South Jersey, and will have several of their skill players returning. Senior quarterback Kevin Williams is back under center after a strong junior season. His top target will once again be senior wideout Mike Kenny. However, the Minutemen will once again rely on their ground game, especially with fullback Mike D'Andrea returning for his final season.
"We really do like our quarterback and our wide receivers," said Head Coach Tom Brown. "Plus, we have an outstanding fullback in Mike."
The big question will be in the trenches. Washington Township once again has plenty of talent, but the Minutemen will have several young players stepping in with little game experience. Senior tackle Mike Ranger and center Mike O'Connor will anchor the line, while Brown will rotate several other linemen throughout the season.
"We have a lot of nice sophomores on the line who have potential," Brown said. "They just lack the experience. It's still a question if those guys are ready."
The defense improved last year despite a rash of injuries. If everybody stays healthy, the defense should be even stronger this season. D'Andrea and O'Connor are terrors at linebacker, while Ranger and fellow lineman Jim Lawson should provide a potent pass rush. The secondary is anchored by senior free safety Jeff Brown, who stepped up last season in his first year as a starter.
Washington Township is one of several teams considered to be contenders for the Olympic American crown. Lenape is the favorite in the eyes of many, and Shawnee will have most of their starters back from last season. Triton continues to improve under Dennis Vespe, and Eastern will still give teams problems despite some serious graduation losses. Washington Township should know just how strong their chances of contending are on September 22, when they play host to Lenape.
"Lenape should be one of the top teams in South Jersey," said Brown. "Shawnee has the most returning starters back. But everybody in the league is dangerous, and that's what makes it so tough every year."
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